Al-Ahram Street witnessed late last month the gruesome murder of a dog with the consent of his owner. You’ve most probably seen that viral video, so there is no need for me to reiterate that painful record. What struck me most in that clip though was not the cruel vengeance from loyalty and courage, that is that dog, but all of those people standing there, taking pictures or just watching. It looked like an assembly of the living dead. How did this become of us? The answer is pretty sad and simple. When fresh water is not exactly accessible, when infrastructure is a luxury, when poverty is so common you can’t point it out, and when making money is a life-long struggle, you no longer have human beings.
We died of thirst. The World Bank Data Indicators, the UNDP reports, and the IMF Principal Global Indicators seem to agree that 100% of the Egyptian urban population has access to fresh drinking water. It isn’t much of a challenge to refute them, especially if you are an Egyptian citizen of good economic standard and never drink from the tap. You could easily picture what it is like for the marginalized informal settlements for instance. Let alone that because of our national project from the 70s not allowing the flooding of the Nile, by the time the water arrives in Cairo it is so heavily polluted that we’re practically fishing and drinking from the sewer system of every other city south of Cairo.
We died of the concrete jungle we’re trying to come to peace with. If we look at sanitation facilities for instance-the sewer system, septic tanks, and toilets-97.8 is the percentage of the Egyptian urban population that has access to improved sanitation facilities. We know for a fact that there is a sewer system because we know there is a significant percentage of the population living in it. If you haven’t seen it, take a trip further down Salah Salem to old Cairo, by Magra Al-3youn. Because of the lack of proper infrastructure, a lot of people contract cancer and hepatitis only doing their day-to-day work.
We died of the struggle for making a decent living. The UNDP uses an index called the GINI coefficient to measure wealth distribution in countries. Apparently, Egypt’s GINI coefficient is the same as that of France. You most probably are aware that this cannot be even slightly true. If you are not, then let me not tell you of unemployment rates, but of vulnerable employment rates. According to the Eurofund, vulnerable employment is a category that includes those who are not employed formally, paid less than the official minimum wage, not granted, or paid for, holidays and sick leave, not given statutory bonuses and cost-of-living increases, not paid overtime rates, employed on a short definite contract, asked to work irregular hours, and employed on a casual basis. This category speaks of all the construction workers, gas station workers, and house help etc. According to the World Bank data, 23.1 % of employment in Egypt is vulnerable employment.
We died of the poor health services. I stopped going through the data of those international organizations that are clearly using the wrong indexes and criteria. You most probably know at least one person who recently graduated medicine school in Egypt. Ask them about their residency in one of those public hospitals. When I went out asking those questions, I realized that one could come out of one of the so-called hospitals with a worse health condition.
I realize that I am not bringing anything new to the table. I am not trying to point fingers of blame; I am only trying to help you see that there is so much to be done in this country before we could have the luxury of being outraged.